by Patti Moore
November is National Hospice Month; a month in which the nation’s attention should be on the wonderful care and support hospice organizations provide to dying people and their loved ones. Unfortunately, this month we are still reeling from Time magazine’s October 25th article, No One is Coming: Hospice Patients Abandoned at Death’s Door.
I have dedicated my professional life to working in hospice care, to helping people and organizations be their best, and the vast majority of hospices strive every day to do just that. But for those whose experiences of neglect and unanswered phone calls are the basis of the Time article, our track record and good intentions mean nothing.
In response to the piece, the President and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Edo Banach wrote in part in his letter to the membership, “…The authors cite 3,200 complaints filed with state officials in the past five years. During that period, hospices cared for an estimated 9.4 million patients. Certainly, no bad experience is acceptable, but we should not forget the millions of those who were served well – and the many millions of family caregivers who deeply appreciate the compassion and care they received.”
Tom Koutsoumpas, President and CEO of The National Partnership for Hospice Innovation, wrote in his letter to the editor, “This article paints an appalling picture of hospice care in which care is withheld and no accountability structure is in place to oversee or punish these offending providers."
“Contrary to what is implied in this article, CMS does have the tools to combat this intolerable behavior. Rather than holding hospices accountable for providing substandard care, CMS contractors are fixated on proving a hospice should have known a patient wouldn't die “on time” (within six months).”
Promises made, and promises broken. Good intentions aren’t the same thing as good character, which requires us to keep the promises we make. When a promise is broken, trust is broken with it – and nothing is harder to rebuild. We must be very clear when we promise a dying person and their family hospice care, that we define what that care will be – and follow through with what we’ve pledged to do. Though we may be serving multiple patients and many families, for each of them we’re only given one chance to get it right.
If you are a hospice worker out in the field, working with patients and families in need, don’t make promises you know you and your organization cannot keep. Sometimes there just aren't enough staff to do all the things you know a dying person and their family may need. Don’t put your own license on the line or betray the trust of a dying patient by promising something your company cannot or will not provide. The mission of hospice is to provide refuge, dignity for our patients, and comfort and meaning in their last days of life. That is the pledge we make; both our personal and organizational integrity require us to keep it.
WORTH READING/ WORTH WATCHING:
So much of life depends on our personal point of view; as it’s been said, “Wherever you go, there you are”, and that’s nowhere more true than in the attitudes we bring to life, to aging, and to life’s end. Here, four very different and quite exceptional people share their special insights:
How does life look to a 102 year old Holocaust survivor? For working artist Tova Berlinski the world is still full of wonders.
Given the mostly negative attitude our culture has toward aging, it’s refreshing to hear about Dr. Bill Thomas and his campaign to get this message out; We’re lucky if we get to grow old, and that this “third phase” of life beyond adulthood can be as rich as either of the phases that came before it. Bravo!
Joann Lynn lays out the challenges in “Traveling the Valley of the Shadow of Death in 2017”:“Now, most of us will instead experience a long period of decline in advanced old age. The period of being unable to take care of yourself (mobility, dressing, feeding, toileting) averages more than two years in the last phase of life. During that time, we each will need another person’s help every day---often around the clock. And our society has not even figured out how to talk about the situation, much less how to reorganize to make this newly expectable phase of life comfortable and meaningful, or affordable.”
Tough talk and great ideas on how to pull our battered health care system together to better serve us all – “The healthcare industry in America is so focused on pathology, surgery and pharmacology -- on what doctors "do" to patients -- that it often overlooks the values of the human beings it's supposed to care for. Palliative care physician Timothy Ihrig explains the benefits of a different approach, one that fosters a patient's overall quality of life and navigates serious illness from diagnosis to death with dignity and compassion.”
Good news on all fronts from so many of my clients this week; from big donations to prestigious awards, their great work is being recognized and rewarded by their communities.
A million-dollar donation will expand services at Hope West Hospice in Colorado:
“A plan to build a center for aging baby boomers will get a million-dollar boost from a longtime Grand Junction benefactor. The renovation of the Crossroads Building, 2754 Compass Drive, will feature the Herb and Laura May Bacon Center for Living Your Best.
The Bacon Family Foundation is making the $1 million donation in recognition of Herb Bacon, who served as chairman, president and chief executive officer of United States Bank of Grand Junction, now part of Wells Fargo. He and his wife, Laura May, have two sons and two daughters.
The children operate the foundation and made the donations “to honor their parents,” said Christy Whitney, president and chief executive officer of HopeWest, which was formerly known as Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado.”
Joliet Area Community Hospice Corporation was awarded $10,000 for complementing integrative therapies. A new program will use massage therapy, aromatherapy, multi-sensory/multi-media therapy and relaxation therapy to improve the quality of life of its hospice and bereavement clients.
A dedicated volunteer at Hospice of St. Francis gets a richly deserved award: “As necessary when working with terminally ill patients, these volunteers set their own needs aside to ease the burden that patients and families often feel during end-of-life care,” said Mary Larson, a licensed clinical social worker and the volunteer coordinator at Hospice of St. Francis. “They bring happiness, relief and peace and can be relied upon to deliver these gifts humbly and with appreciation for the opportunity to give back.”
What’s your hospice doing to create alliances and awareness in your community? I’d love to hear about it! Send your stories, press releases, and announcements to: [email protected]
Another whirlwind couple of weeks ahead! Visiting St Petersburg for the Florida Hospice and Palliative Care Association which I love because I get to see all my Florida hospice pals and attending the Brendon Burchard Master Mind meeting in California and then my favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving!
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